Defining Values & Value Statements
Whether or not you know it, your life is influenced daily by several sets of values. Every society, organization, government, community, nation and individual (including yourself) each has a set of values. Individuals you interact with are guided by those values and it is important you know your own so that you don’t get into situations or develop relationships with people who are not aligned with you. This awareness avoids having to walk away from investments you make in time, energy and resources for jobs, organizations, friends, partners, activities, etc.
Objective of Defining Values
Values serve as the criteria to measure whether or not a situation, idea, proposal, etc. is considered acceptable, fair, good, and just. Defining values means clearly identifying which values are important to you or your organization and understanding what ways they apply and why they are important in the form of a value statement. Understanding the core values that matter most is an essential first step in setting direction for life plans for individuals and strategic plans for organizations.
Purpose of Values
Clearly defined value statements allow individuals or members of an organization to set clear boundaries and to serve as guidelines for our decision-making processes. Since happiness is the ultimate measurement of success, having a firm value awareness allows us to instantly discern whether or not something supports or inhibits our path to success. When it comes to interacting with other individuals or organizations, once we understand their values, we again can quickly decide whether to invest time and energy into such relationships or to walk away since values sets may lack alignment.
Most importantly, in the absence of rules, precedence or any other form of guidance for any given situation, value statements serve as a powerful reminder of who we are and strive to be. Values can help us make the best possible decisions even with very limited external input.
Before you start
Keep in mind the following:
- Be Relaxed. This isn’t a test. It’s an exercise to help provide you with clarity.
- Be Patient. This is a process that takes time to get right. If this is the first time you are doing this for yourself or your organization, it will be an enlightening experience. When done correctly, understanding your values provides comfort when assessing situations, considering options and making decisions. Values link your gut to your brain via an open line of communication. In fact, it will become increasingly more difficult to tolerate bad situations or to make unwise decisions once you define your values.
- Be Introspective. Think honestly and openly. Introspection may develop slowly but once you get going the discovery (or possibly rediscovery) should flow nicely. Your rational and your emotional halves of your brain begin to cooperate and work out why things feel right versus wrong. The gut normally feels your values and can help the brain get clued in.
Steps to Define Values & Values Statements
1. Review a list of values (aka principles or character traits) to get your mind into the right frame of thought.
2. Start reflecting on past experiences and what you have learned over the years. If a potential set of values don’t emerge right away, go onto the next step. If a flood of values important to you readily come to mind, start writing them down until you are ready to move onto the next step.
3. Go through the list of questions below. Each question is designed to help you zero in on what values may be important to you and why. Take notes on your thoughts as they are going to be your pool of ideas to draw from during step four.
- What values were present during events that inspired you in the past or continue to inspire you now?
- What values stand out among people who inspired you in the past or continue to inspire you today?
- What are the predominant values among organizations you most respect?
- What values have you relied on for your past successes?
- What values will be needed to achieve your vision for the future?
4. Review your notes and pick out the 10 values that stand out to you as the most important. Start reframing the notes into the form of clear and concise value statements using sincere language.
5. Finally narrow your 10 most important values down to the 5 most important. If more than 5 are extremely important to you, that’s okay but keep in mind that more will be difficult to remember. If any 2 are similar, try to combine them. Regardless of your final number, these values will serve as an incredible guide to good decision making.
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